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Posts Tagged ‘politicians’

Political Cleansing on the Coasts

By Meghan Daum of The Los Angeles Times 

Talking about your shrink isn’t just for Woody Allen characters anymore. Once the kiss of death for a political career, announcing that you’re in or about to enter therapy has actually become go-to damage-control strategy for public servants.

There’s the local example, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, subject of a cascade of sexual harassment allegations, including such debonair comportment as telling an aide she should come to work without underwear. Resisting calls to resign, Filner will seek therapy in “the hope of becoming a better person.” It will take place over two weeks at an undisclosed clinic, after which, Filner said, “My focus will be on … being the best mayor I can be, and the best person I must be.”

And in New York, revelations that mayoral candidate and former congressman Anthony Weiner‘s pornographic texting habit had continued well after the initial scandal forced him out of office two years ago had both the candidate and his wife fighting to hold on to the campaign by alluding to their hours on the couch.


“It took a lot of work and a whole lot of therapy to get to a place where I could forgive Anthony,” said Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin.

Granted, these are New Yorkers who know their audience. A New York Times profile of the couple in April portrayed Weiner as a guy who talks about his shrink with all the nonchalance of someone talking about his dentist. “I start sentences with ‘My therapist says …,'” Weiner told the reporter. It’s a strategy that might backfire in Omaha or Dallas but could have a humanizing effect in a city whose residents pride themselves on having problems only professionals can solve.

When it comes to public figures, especially those as beholden to old-fashioned values as most politicians claim to be, there’s a distinction between going to rehab for substance abuse or even sex addiction and plain old psychotherapy. Ironically, the former can be less freighted than the latter. Checking into a treatment center for a set amount of time is the kind of take-the-bull-by-the-horns move that potentially earns voters’ forgiveness.

But even in the post-Tony Soprano era, the politician with a standing appointment for id and super-ego maintenance is likely to be regarded with suspicion, at the very least because what lawmaker worth his salt has time in his schedule for that much life examination? Isn’t that reserved for morning jogs and prayer breakfasts? (Lesson: There’s very little id and super-ego maintenance going on in Washington.)

Filner, and to some extent Weiner and Abedin, fall into the category of therapy-seekers with a mission. They’re helping themselves so that they can continue to “help others” (translation: hold on to their careers). But amid the debate about their sincerity and, in Filner’s case, whether years of creepiness can be cured in two weeks, at least one point seems to be getting ignored: Most therapy just isn’t that effective.

For those lucky enough to find the right clinician (and dedicated enough to the process), psychotherapy can be life changing. But it’s not like killing an infection with 10 days of antibiotics — it takes as long as it takes. Nor can all therapists can get beyond simplistic insights and basic hand holding. You don’t “do therapy” and suddenly all is well, over and done.

Despite this, we’ve come to give therapy immediate, outsized credence, so much so that a politician can attempt to erase a record of bad deeds by simply saying he’s signed up. And while it’s good that the stigma around mental healthcounseling is lifting, what’s less good is the way the kind of blind faith once reserved for medical doctors is now extended to just about any act of listening and dispensing advice. Catch even a minute of Dr. Phil administering his shticky tough love, or some radio therapist offering one-size-fits-all guidance, and it’s clear how scary a prospect that is. And how foolish it is to let our leaders use it as a way of avoiding punishment or accountability.

Meanwhile, this current crop of politicians-in-treatment is about to encounter yet another problem. It’s August, the month when shrinks traditionally go on vacation. Here’s hoping Weiner and Abedin have some self-help books to tide them over. And that Filner packs some extra underwear.


Getting the Clutter Out / Christine Doyle

Getting the Clutter Out / Christine Doyle

Clutter. What is your take on clutter? For most of my life, clutter was something that happened to other people. Not that I didn’t have piles of laundry or stacks of dishes. I just didn’t notice. I really did not care. To me there will always be something more compelling than organizing a closet, a file system or my kitchen shelves.  But this afternoon, as I was walking out to a dentist appointment, I actually saw the piles of Pokemon cards on my son’s dresser, the stacks of clean clothes (well, they are clean!) on my son’s bed, the things lined up just inside my daughter’s room. Now, my biggest excuse for not having a perfect life, the fact that I am a stressed out Mom, left town when my two kids did.  I felt a momentary pang of something. Not guilt. But something. So, what would you do? If you’re me, you would pull the door closed on their bedrooms.

But, unfurling our lives is the key to clarity and good health, isn’t it? And while I can sometimes see so clearly where the overlap is between politicians, people and even family on two sides of the aisle, sometimes we can be blocked to things that are right in front of us. Or in this case, behind us, in our backs.

When I threw my back out doing yoga, I thought that can’t be right. Yoga is the cure when my back acts up. Especially when it’s yoga in a toasty room with padded flooring.It relaxes me just to think about it. So, after I threw my back out on vacation (another oxymoron) I went to my cousin’s chiropractor in Connecticut, Dr. Jill Capalbo, and here’s the shocking part. I never asked what was involved. She laughed so hard at my shock, and yes, it was shock, when a whole section of the drop table dropped and my back dropped or popped right along with it. For an ex-reporter who looooooves to ask questions, and lots of them, I never really asked what a chiropractor does. Thank God she was good natured when I naively tried to tip her. It was only afterwards, and after seeing the framed degrees on her wall, that I realized that she has five degrees and yes, one of them is a PhD. Note to self: Chiropractors are actual Doctors.

Yesterday, I had my first local adjustment. This time I had to hug the doctor. Dr. Matt doesn’t use a drop table but he does throw himself into his work, quite literally. My vertebrae were still popping. And again, the sound of it still surprises. Also surprising was how clear and bright eyed I felt after my adjustment. Things were just, well, a lot brighter.

But, the biggest surprise is how much clutter was in my back. Because I woke up this morning missing my kids so much. And really rather teary eyed at the fact that we haven’t seen each other in more than a month. It’s amazing what happens when you open a door…or when you open up the neural pathways that can get blocked when your back is out of synch. I gotta roll. I have to hit the kids’ rooms.


If Occupy-palooza were a rock band

Op-Ed Columnist Charles Blow wrote that he was sitting next to a young woman in Brooklyn who was having dinner and planning to head to the Occupy Wall Street Protest the next day … This is a reprint of that article that talks about the Grateful Dead trek atmosphere around these protests.  I personally think this spontaneous eruption of young people in the streets is probably no accident but an attempt to engage the young hipsters who helped Obama get elected in 2008 but sat out the mid term elections in 2010.

By Charles Blow, The New York Times

“Between a morning boot camp workout at the local Y.M.C.A. and an evening meeting with friends for drinks, she was planning her first trek to Zuccotti Park to take part in the Occupy Wall Street protests.  “Why?” I asked. “What specifically are you protesting?” I was curious.  I hoped that she’d respond with some variation of the umbrella arguments about income inequality, the evils of corporate greed and corruption or removing corporate money from politics. She didn’t. “I don’t know. It’s just cool,” she said. She went on to tell me about how she felt that this was a movement of people with whom she felt some kinship, banding together and making history, and that she wanted to be a part of that in the same way that people from previous generations were part of the civil rights, women’s liberation and antiwar movements. She hinted at inequality but never quite got there. Yet she was passionately convinced that she must get involved. That is part of the magic and mystery of these protests: a near magnetic attraction drawing in both the hard core and the hangers-on alike. While there are some people with very specific goals taking part in the protests and supporting them, there are many others who come with no particular, refined mission or message other than a desire to show solidarity, to rise up and be seen and heard and to display their disaffection for the status quo. And that may well be message enough for many. If the Occupy Wall Street protests were a band, I’d say the closest corollary would probably be the legendary ’90s grunge band Nirvana — both meaningful and murky, tapping into a national angst and hopelessness, providing a much-needed catharsis and gaining a broad and devoted following while quickly becoming the voice of a generation. Needless to say, that doesn’t cover everyone. The protests have a Lollapalooza-like eccentricity and diversity to the crowds. Some come to revel in the moment. Others come to rage against the machine. But they are all drawn together by the excitement of animating a muscle that many thought had atrophied: demonstration and disobedience in the name of equality. This has energized two groups who are notoriously apathetic and lacking in civic engagement — the young and the poor — and has done so outside the existing architectures of power and politics. This excitement has attracted the attention of progressive politicians, pundits and celebrities, many of whom are making pilgrimages to the protests to lend support while reinforcing their own street cred and pondering how to best harness the energy on display. After all, civic energy is a precious commodity in an election season. You can almost see some leaders and luminaries drooling at the thought of using the protests to their political advantage. But there has been an even stronger reaction by some on the right, who, out of fear, are seeking to pre-emptively stain and marginalize the protesters. Herman Cain has called them “jealous.” Bill O’Reilly has suggested that they are “crackheads.” Glenn Beck — I guess in an attempt to be king of the hill of hysteria — has gone so far as to call them killers: “Capitalists, if you think that you can play footsies with these people, you’re wrong. They will come for you and drag you into the streets and kill you.” The irony is that all these people are at the top of the food chain in an economic ecosystem that many protesters seem to view as fundamentally flawed and in need of radical realignment if not wholesale deconstruction. So the protesters have defied efforts to be led or labeled by either side. This independent positioning may be serving them well. Early national polls taken about the movement have found that although many Americans aren’t clear about the protesters’ goals, they support them. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last weekend found that nearly two-thirds of people who were asked didn’t know enough about the goals of the Occupy Wall Street protests to say if they approved of them or not. Yet a United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, also conducted last weekend, asked if people agreed with the goals of the protests from what they “know about the demonstrations.” Fifty-nine percent said that they agreed. That may well be because even if there isn’t a single, clear message of the protests that people identify with, it seems as if they do agree with many of the disparate ideas being put forward. A Time Magazine/Abt SRBI poll conducted last week found that among those familiar with the protests, 86 percent of respondents believed that “Wall Street and lobbyists have too much influence in Washington”; 79 percent believed that “the gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. is too large”; 71 percent believed that “executives of financial institutions responsible for the financial meltdown in 2008 should be prosecuted”; and 68 percent believed that “the rich should pay more in taxes.” Closer to the epicenter, the mission is clearer and public support even stronger. A Quinnipiac poll of New York City voters released this week found that nearly three-quarters said that they understood the protesters’ views at least fairly well, two-thirds said that they agreed with those views, nearly 9 in 10 said that it was O.K. “that they are protesting” and nearly three-quarters said that as long as the protesters obey the laws that they should be able to remain as long as they wish. The Occupy Wall Street protests may or may not grow into a political force pursuing a specific legislative agenda through normal systems, but there can be little doubt at this point that the protests have struck a chord with a large swath of Americans. If nothing else, the movement has established itself as a cultural phenomenon with surprising staying power, and as someone who wasn’t sure that it would catch hold, I must echo the young woman in the restaurant: that’s just cool.”

It's all about jobs

It’s all about jobs

Jobs, jobs, jobs … really job creation is all Americans want to hear from their politicians.  According to the latest polls,  Americans are the most pessimistic they’ve ever been.  Jon Huntsman published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal blaming Obama for adding “zero jobs to the economy” in August.  A pro-environment, pro-gay moderate Republican, Huntsman may not be registering in the polls but his jobs program is eliciting cheers from Wall Street.  He wants to close ALL loopholes for the wealthy, lower the corporate tax rate and roll back Obamacare.  Where he might hit a roadblock is over his plan to eliminate the deduction on the interest you pay on your mortgage, one of the most popular – and the only in some cases – tax break for middle class families.  Romney hinted about his plan in a speech to Hispanic voters Friday, saying he is going to open up energy exploration here in the U.S., cap spending at 20% of the Gross Domestic Product and slash taxes at the same time.  In a speech on Labor Day, Obama talked about putting a million out of work construction workers back to work rebuilding our country’s bridges and schools and creating an infrastructure bank to pay for it that would draw on private funds.  His decision to abandon tougher restrictions on smog emissions last week was greeted on the left as heresy and on the right, as a small step that could free businesses up to focus on creating jobs instead of complying with new regulations.